The first scheduled launch of United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur may have to wait a bit longer as the company attempts to fix an anomaly in the rocket’s upper stage.
The heavy rocket performed a flight readiness review test on June 7, bringing it one step closer to its maiden flight. There remains, however, an unresolved issue with the rocket, which could delay its first liftoff until the end of 2023, according to unnamed sources. said ArsTechnica.
It’s been a bumpy ride for ULA trying to see its new rocket fly for the first time. The 202-foot-tall (62 meters) rocket was originally planned for its first takeoff on May 4. Five Weeks before its scheduled launch, however, a fiery explosion swept through the rocket’s test bed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama as engineers pressurized its upper stage.
Things were finally looking up for ULA’s Centaur rocket after completing a static fire test of its engines earlier this month in preparation for THE maiden flight. The test, which lasted around six seconds, saw the rocket’s two BE-4 engines, which run on a mixture of liquid methane and liquid oxygen, rev up to their target level before shutting down .
Although the test was a success, the Colorado-based company has yet to announce a launch date for its rocket. Earlier this week, ULA CEO Tory Bruno writing on Twitter that the only thing standing in the way of Vulcan’s first launch is the “quality test that was interrupted by the Centaur V anomaly”.
Bruno refers to the one mentioned above anomaly that appeared during a pressure test late Mars when the rocket’s hydrogen tank failed. He added on the Twitter thread, however, that the “root cause has been found” and that “the super thin, high performance steel skin should be a bit thicker near the top of the dome.” The company’s CEO also said there will be another Centaur stage pressure test. qualifying tank once it has been reinforced.
ULA’s Vulcan Centaur is expected to replace ULA’s Atlas V and Delta IV rockets, which have been in use for two decades. The company initially aimed for a 2020 first launch of its long-awaited rocket, which was later pushed back to 2022 and then again to May 2023. The rocket was held back by the delivery of its two BE-4 engines, built by Blue Origin . , who were more than four years past the deadline.
The Vulcan Centaur is designed to lift 27.2 metric tons (60,000 pounds) into low Earth orbit and 6.5 metric tons (14,300 pounds) into geosynchronous orbit.
For its first mission, the rocket will attempt to deliver Astrobotic’s Peregrine Lunar Lander, which, on behalf of NASA, is designed to deliver 11 payloads to the surface of the Moon. Vulcan Centaur also wears the first two Amazon Kuiper Internet satelliteswhich are designed to operate in low earth orbit.